My little brother had a really awesome toy when we were kids.
My Pet Monster.
It was almost as big as he was, covered in blue fur, with glow in the dark teeth and a big warty nose.
He came with an awesome accessory – a set of rubber shackles with a plastic chain between them. There was a false link in the middle, that would pop loose with a little force.
We would play cops and robbers, and take turns being arrested. Then, we’d “hulk out” and break off the shackles and run away.
You’ll never catch me, Copper!
Mike* was an addict. His wife and kids had died in a crash. He treated that pain with booze. The booze wasn’t enough. So he smoked pot. The pot wasn’t enough, so he started popping pills. It wasn’t long before heroin and cocaine were as essential as his morning coffee.
Dude was hurting. Badly. Unfortunately, self-medicating with toxins has a number of side effects, including an inability to hold down a job, an inability to keep a relationship, and an inability to drive safely.
He wanted to die. Tried to a few times.
He packed up and moved to the opposite coast, in an attempt to escape his chains. They followed him.
Several DWI’s later, he wound up with a prison sentence.
His emotional pain turned into a physical condition where his body depended on poison. His pain made him a slave.
Before MIke went in, he had his “Hand of God” moment – where he actually literally met God – but that’s another story for another day. Mike hit the ground hard, and renounced the mess that he was in.
Something BAD happened to Mike. Mike chose slavery in the hopes that it would make him feel better. It didn’t. He felt worse, and wanted to die. Tried to strangle himself with his chains. Tried to run, but he took his chains with him.
When a slave runs, a slavemaster will try to capture him, and punish him for leaving.
Mike broke the chains off. Got clean. Made a drastic change.
But he still had consequences.
I sent him this message before he went in. “Hey bro. I know you don’t want to go. Nobody wants to go to prison. But you’ve made changes while you’ve been waiting for this sentence to come down. You’ve walked out of the chains you had, and become an entirely different person.
Prison is certainly a consequence – but maybe it’s a privilege too?
You’ve been chosen to go on mission. To walk into that place as a changed man. You aren’t there to be punished – you’re there to be a lighthouse. To shine a beacon for all the others there. To show them that chains can be broken.”
He’s out now. Clean. Sober. Free.
No chains. No shackles. No prison walls. I’m sure he still has hurt. He’s scarred up on the inside. And he goes to AA meetings and churches and tells them that chance is possible. That chains can be broken.
My own story doesn’t feel as dramatic. Sometimes part of me wishes I had a story like that. Prison, Heroin. Freedom.
But I’m also really glad that I don’t.
But I know chains. I know them well. I also know the sound they make when they hit the floor.
You’ll never catch me, Copper!
*Not his real name.